I don’t know how many of them we have spread through the house . . . probably seven or eight. Come Christmas, the various nativity scenes are brought out and put on display at the Corak’s house. They vary in number of pieces . . . in size . . . in intricacy or simplicity . . . but they all have one thing in common . . . front and center a baby . . . and right next to the child, a doting mother. That she who had been visited by the angel and declared to be the “favored one” (Luke 1:28-31) should share center stage with God’s great gift is appropriate. It was through her that God would become flesh. Chosen to have the Holy Spirit come upon her . . . to have the power of the Most High overshadow her . . . she would give birth to a child . . . and she would name Him Jesus . . . “for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). No one was nearer to the giving of God’s great gift. So, there she is prominently placed in each manger scene . . . looking upon the babe in the manger. Woman, behold, your Son!
After the angel’s revelation of her favored calling, her soul would magnify the Lord . . . and her spirit rejoice in God her Savior (Luke 1:47). After the shepherds’ visit to her stable nursery . . . after hearing them testify of their close encounter of the divine kind, of an angels visitation, of the glory of God shone around them (Luke 2:9-10), she “treasured up all these things” and pondered these happenings in her heart (Luke 2:19) . . . trying to bring it all together in her mind. What Child is this? . . . what plans does God have for His Anointed? Woman, behold, your Son!
This is something of the juxtaposition that came to mind as I read in John 19 this morning. There, the angel is gone . . . Pilate instead is the one who testifies of Jesus’ innocence. The animals of the stable are replaced with the animals of the Roman guard . . . delighting in flogging, beating, and mocking the meek and lowly Jesus who, “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, . . . opened not His mouth” (Isa. 53.7). And the shepherds, who gave glory to God in the highest, are displaced with the Sanhedrin and their cries of, “We have no king but Caesar! Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him! (John 19:15). And, while no longer front and center with her boy . . . yet not far away . . . is His mother. Woman, behold, your Son!
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took His garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. . . . So the soldiers did these things, but standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”
(John 19:23-26 ESV)
Standing by the cross of Jesus was His mother. She who knelt beside the manger looking down upon the radiance of God’s delight and favor, now stood next to an instrument of death looking up at Him who had been forsaken of men . . . and would be soon forsaken of God . . . as He who knew no sin was to be made sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2Cor. 5:21). Her Son was born to die . . . come to give His life as a ransom for many.
And while I love taking a few moments to focus on one of the many nativity scenes lying around our house . . . while I delight in trying to enter into the awe and wonder of that night . . . as I try, with Mary, to treasure up these things and ponder them in my heart, as well . . . in their shadow is a cross . . . and, praise God, that cross is in the shadow of an empty tomb! O how the world needs to behold the Son.
And O, that I might not lose sight of the full picture of the wonder of Immanuel. That I might, afresh, behold the Son. Not just the Child asleep on the hay . . . but the Christ nailed to the cross . . . and the King coming again in glory.
O come let us adore Him . . . Christ the Lord!